Vienna's Diplomatic Academy has been noted for its wealth of diversification. Founded as the "Oriental Academy," its mission was to train emissaries in so-called "oriental" culture, then unknown to other countries. Over the centuries, the challenges of future diplomats have changed remarkably, particularly since the fall of Communism. The Academy has stressed the recognition of political trends and the ability to respond quickly to them.
The Diplomatic Academy, founded in 1754 by Empress Maria Theresia, can be proud of its 250 years of existence, and of its flexibility in adapting to the new demands placed upon modern diplomats.
The anniversary of Vienna's Academy is not only a celebration of the oldest diplomatic school in the world but also a celebration of having successfully maintained its relevance to the European world of diplomats. This fact has been recognized by international political leaders, such as Colin Powell, who wrote in his congratulatory letter: "The Austrian Diplomatic Academy has played a significant role in the history of European diplomacy and continues to occupy an important place, fostering good relations among the countries of Central Europe, particularly those to Austria's East."
Its international reputation is reflected by those who are enrolled in its training programs. Only one third of the graduates are Austrians, the remaining participants are recruited from many countries. Recently, there has been a noticeable increase in the number of students from Eastern Europe.
A large part of the graduates do not decide to take up a diplomatic career but choose to serve in one of the international organizations, like the United Nations, European Union, or one of the non-Governmental Organizations (NGO). Students are being prepared for the requirements of those professional fields by selecting many of their courses from the required courses which constitute the main core of the curriculum. Training in fields such as Political Science, Law and Economics, is supplemented by additional training in languages, primarily English and French.
The program not only provides a strong background of academic knowledge but also emphasizes the skills necessary to put this knowledge into practice. The debating and discussion of actual events is highly valued. The program tries to educate students to think critically and to act free of prejudice. Tolerance, flexibility, a respect for human rights and the recognition of global trends are all areas of major emphasis. With this extensive training, the Academy can rightly claim to be a force in shaping the diplomat in the 21st century.
Sophie Voigt-Firon is a twenty year -old Austrian student of Political Science and Sinology. She currently works as an intern at the Austrian Embassy of Austria in Washington, D.C.